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From cheerful clapping to screaming sirens: an artist captures the sounds of a pandemic

A crowd-sourced project by Yuri Suzuki at the Dallas Museum of Art aims to "connect people through the sonic experience" during the coronavirus crisis

Yuri Suzuki, Sound of the Earth: the Pandemic Chapter (2020) Dallas Museum of Art

What does this pandemic sound like? The London-based Japanese artist Yuri Suzuki is building an archive of sounds with a crowd-sourced project in which participants around the world have submitted audio snippets of their lives since the coronavirus pandemic hit. The project Sound of the Earth: the Pandemic Chapter, commissioned by the Dallas Museum of Art, aims to “connect people through the sonic experience” in this time of physical isolation, says the artist.

“We’ve been forced to lose more and more physical contact with people but I believe that audio and sound communication, and a project that can be interactive, can help to fill that void,” Suzuki says. “People need distance but there’s still the chance for audio interaction. You can email or text, but it’s not the same as hearing someone else’s voice.”

The archive currently comprises more than 300 sound bites that Suzuki has collected in the past two months, from the sound of a waterfall to ambulance sirens, communal clapping for healthcare workers to glimpses of private conversations, some of which have a haunting echo evoking the lonely state of a world under widespread lockdown.

“With face-to-face interaction impossible for now, this open platform hopefully provides a means of connection, and a unique browsing experience to fill up the time,” Suzuki adds.

The work is the online continuation of the installation Sound of the Earth: Chapter 2 that Suzuki created for the museum’s group exhibition Speechless: Different by Design, which closed early due to coronavirus. The sonic work invited viewers to place their ear against a sphere to hear a unique sound recorded in various parts of the world; similar works “won't be possible for a long time”, Suzuki says.

Audiences are encouraged to submit sounds of their experiences during the pandemic—from cooking dinner at home to Zoom chats with loved ones. Sound submissions can be uploaded as audio or video files to earthsounds.dma.org and will be added to the project on an ongoing basis.